Queen’s Counsel become King’s Counsel following Queen’s passing

updated on 23 September 2022

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Following the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday 8 September 2022, all Queen’s Counsel (QC) have become King’s Counsel (KC).

The first case to be seen by a KC since 1950 at the Old Bailey happened on Friday 9 September, the day after the Queen’s passing. This change is among several others that have been implemented over the past couple of weeks, with prosecutions now also being called in the name of His Majesty King Charles III, experts at The University of Law (ULaw) have explained.  

Like QCs, KCs are highly established lawyers appointed by the monarch who take on cases that require a high level of experience. It’s referred to as ‘taking silk’ and is the highest-ranking position for an established lawyer. While the decision to progress someone to KC is merit-based, it also requires at least 10 years of experience and individuals will be chosen based on their area of expertise.

The Crown Office advised that the transition from QC to KC happen with immediate effect, which saw Barristers’ chambers quickly implement the change.

This change also means that criminal prosecutions will fall under ‘R v Smith’ with the ‘R’ no longer meaning Queen, Regina, but instead representing the King, Rex.

On top of the title changes, the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court will become the King’s Bench Division, forming the largest of the High Court divisions. It oversees disputes including negligence, libel and personal injury claims.

The Queen’s Building at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1968, will keep its current name.

David Green, academic manager at ULaw said: “For some 70 years the term Queen’s Counsel or QC has been used with great pride for those taking silk in the legal profession. It will take a bit of time to get used to the new term KCs, as King’s Counsels will be known, but they will of course be just as revered.”

This information was supplied by The University of Law